I’ve been practicing the intensive plant mollycoddling I have been learning from Americans. It pains me to have to acknowledge that our colonial friends may know a little something about growing veg. To the left is a photo (taken at dusk on a phone on 9th March 2016) of veg growing in late winter in the ground. I learnt from a couple of sources, all North American, that told me to use more than one cover (cloche) and that would markedly improve the conditions for the growth in winter of certain vegetables. It is very early and those peas (centre right top) are 10 inches tall.
I am of course in south-western England where the climate is zone 8 and we don’t really freeze that much. Snow is quite rare and we only get a few frosts.
I am using a low hoop house cloche using 6m x 2m plastic sheeting and plastic plumbing from Wilkos. I’ve cut the 6m plastic into two 3m lengths so I can make two short cloches. I make hoops by pushing the ends of the plumbing into the ground. Then I place the plastic sheet over the top and weigh the edges down with bricks, stones, etc.
Underneath that I have planted seedlings using the square foot method for spacing. This means (going top right anticlockwise) 9 pea seedlings in 1 square foot next to 1 ‘swift’ early potato (which is invisible in the pic but just sprouting through the soil), next to 4 kailaan broccoli in one square foot above another early potato, next to 4 bunches of pak choi in a square foot, next to 4 bunches of red mizuna. Unlike the square foot system I grow in soil. All these squares also have a small plastic propagator lid or cloche as well as the hoop cloche.
At the weekend I put my hand in the soil and it was warm. You can see that the warmth has let the crops start growing early. I put my hand in the soil today but it wasn’t warm, so it is still early days.
This technique was apparently devised by Eliot Coleman, a legendary organic market gardener, but I learned it from the one yard revolution youtube channel.
It’s not the prettiest sight in the world, a soggy winter garden covered in plastic, but I intend to give my garden a headstart and remove it all in late April, revealing a fully formed mature veg patch.
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